By Laurel Pattenden
I always think that February is the month for poetry and love. This is the time when bookstores always carry publications of Shakespeare’s love sonnets and Valentine poetry.
Poetry can express so much in few words, unlike prose. It’s economical in word count. But not so economical in time. Time must be spent to bond with it. Just as love needs time.
When it comes to poetry, many of us have that dreadful memory of having to memorize poetry in elementary school and then having to blurt it back to the teacher at some appointed time. For most of us it was a moment of terror, but then there were a few students who did extremely well. I don’t think they were in my group.
Never would I have thought at that time that poetry was in our DNA. But it most evidently is. From the first time we heard nursery rhymes to our earliest days in school when we handed out those nifty little valentines. I still like to look at the kid packages of punch out valentine cards that we see in the stores for Valentine’s day. Perhaps it is arrested development but I think a small card (that can fit in your pocket) that asks you to be a friend with a picture of a superhero really can’t be topped.
Our lives touch poetry from our early years to our last years and even to the stars beyond. For all you Trekkies, the Star Fleet had to study Klingon poetry at the Star Fleet Academy!
I am sure there are some poetry DNA doubters reading this, so I have compiled a short list of lines from poems you may have heard. Can you recognize any of them?
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul.
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven
All’s right with the world!
Well did you recognize any of the lines above? Worried you don’t have the DNA for poetry? Don’t. My list has not ended.
Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row by row.
Lt. Col. John McCrae
Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house –
Clement Clark Moore
I think by this time we have all recognized at least one poem. As I said, it’s there in our memory and our DNA. The Psalmists knew this. Their very souls cried out to God. Their poetry had no boundaries. No limit on metaphor or simile. No limit on their creative spirit. No limit for their love of God. It would have been impossible for them to hold their words within. Their DNA pushed it out. Their craving for communion with God pushed it out. Their love for God freed them to express. We are so intricately connected to the love of God it is in our very fibre. We are called to be psalmists and poets.
Wouldn’t it be fun for us to become psalmists in this month of poetry and love? As 12,000 pairs of stoic Anglican eyes stare at this I will humbly admit that fun for one is not necessarily fun for all. So… maybe we could express our love for God by reading and maybe memorizing some of the Psalms this February. For those who are not sure about this idea, start with Psalm 100. And for those few who could rattle off memorized poetry in school, may I kindly suggest Psalm 119. Let us release our poet souls. There is a psalmist in your heart. God put it in your DNA.
Laurel Pattenden fills the pew at All Saints’, Corunna.